I can’t believe it’s over. That I finished Fringe and have seen all that there is to be seen of the dynamic team of Olivia, Peter, and Walter. I’ll admit, I was slugging through this last season, only 13 episodes long. Maybe because it was accepting the end, maybe it was because I was watching TV shows live again (mostly that), but there was also the fact that for quite a while, I wasn’t motivated to watch season 5 because I felt sort of meh about it. Thankfully, the last few episodes and the finale finally delivered. WARNING: Don’t read further if you haven’t watched the series. THERE ARE SPOILERS BELOW!
So this is how season four ended…
I knew that the season 4 episode “Letters of Transit” was a glimpse into the future world that we would be visiting for season 5, so September’s words were certainly ominous. The Observers were coming, but why were they going to be so evil? September seems pretty nice! I was curious to find out, but cautiously optimistic. The world portrayed in “Letters of Transit” was quite grim, after all. And that definitely did not stop once season 5 got kicked off. The Fringe team, having been trapped in amber for 20 years, is reunited thanks to Etta, Peter and Olivia’s now grown daughter who they lost the day the Observers invaded.
Rant #1: Peter and Olivia spend a lot of time asking each other, “What happened to Etta that day? Where did she go?” BUT THEY NEVER ASK HER! At least, not on-screen, and they should have, because I wanted to know too! Obviously someone raised her, and she was raised as such that she came to hate the Observers/Invaders and joined the Resistance. But we NEVER find out what happened to her!
Walter hid tapes in the ambered Harvard Lab that would reveal the details of the plan to defeat the Observers. The Fringe team must retrieve, watch, and follow these tapes to the letter. So for several episodes, they are basically on a scavenger hunt with a vague objective in mind, meanwhile Peter and Olivia struggle with their relationship and with how to relate to the daughter they barely knew.
I never felt the connection to Etta that I wanted. When she died, I was sad, but I wasn’t devastated, and in fact, I felt that the story really picked up after she died. I guess her death was motivation to help the Fringe team stop their lollygagging around, but still, I think I was supposed to be more emotionally connected. I mean, there were definitely some nice moments between Olivia and Etta, but there could have been more, or at least stronger, moments. Though the running theme with the bullet was poignant.
Rant #2: For a 13 episode season that was described by the show’s producers as being essentially “one long movie,” it has terrible pacing.
The first episode that I think REALLY piqued my interest a lot was episode 6, “Through the Looking Glass and What Walter Found There,” the episode where we learn that the boy from the season one episode “Inner Child” is an important part of the plan and the Fringe team travels to a “pocket universe” to retrieve him, but instead end up with a radio. Then I felt the story lagged for another couple of episodes (though there are some nice moments in “The Human Kind”) where we have to deal with
Rant #3: the Peter-becoming-an-Observer-and-it-is-really-dangerous-and-scary-but-the-only-after-effects-from-it-are-a-couple-bad-headaches subplot,
until “Black Blotter.” That’s when, despite Walter’s LSD trip induced state of mind that provided some unnecessary weirdness (along with a very necessary emotional check-up of Walter’s subconscious), we finally seemed to move forward with the story. They get the boy! They call him Michael! He’s an Observer anomaly who was never fully matured and was set to be destroyed! They find Donald! AND DONALD, AKA SEPTEMBER WHO IS UNOBSERVERFIED AND HAS HAIR NOW, IS HIS FATHER!
Needless to say, “Black Blotter” through the end of the season easily get 4.99 stars for me for being so awesome and emotionally satisfying.
Speaking of emotionally satisfying, “Liberty” brought the Redverse back briefly (which I hated so freaking much in season 3 but thanks to season 4 did not hate anymore…) and just look how cute Fauxlivia and Lincoln are!
I’m so glad I got to see Lincoln Lee one more time.
So the finale. It tied up all the loose-ends from season 5 (except I’m dying to know what happened to William Bell. Was he left in amber without a hand? Or did the Observers get him out when they got Simon? If so, what happened? Was he interrogated? Is he running around ready to cause havoc to the timeline all over again?). It did not tie up all the storylines and questions from throughout the series though, which I sensed would be the case basically from the first episode of season 5, when the focus was clearly not on the past. So while I’m disappointed I will never fully understand the deal with ZFT, The First People, Sam Weiss (though I was glad he was at least alluded to this season), John Scott, Olivia’s stepfather, and more, it wasn’t disappointing enough to say that the finale wasn’t the right ending for the series, because it was.
My first reaction to the timeline reset: I wasn’t surprised. I had expected as much, especially thanks to The Fringe Podcast I listened to along the way where they theorized this frequently. But I kept thinking that a reset in the park didn’t make sense if the Observers ceased to exist, and that the timeline change for our Fringe team members would have to start in 1985 with September not showing up in the lab to distract Walternate. And then that would change EVERYTHING and invalidate THE ENTIRE SERIES (of course, only the fourth season really means anything now, though I am SO GLAD that Walter got the memories Peter and Olivia have of seasons 1-3, even if it all still seems convoluted to me). But also thanks to The Fringe Podcast, I heard some different ideas of how this might work and some explanations of time paradoxes and such, but it’s all too much for my brain to truly comprehend.
But there the very final moment made it all worth it for me.
“White Tulip” is easily one of my favorite episodes of all of Fringe, and how the writers used the symbol throughout the show and then tied it all back in the end was just WOW. It was the most fitting, perfect, beautiful ending Fringe could have given me.
Random Star Trek: Enterprise Rant: Brannon and Braga and Rick Berman: I hope you watched Fringe and took notes.
Season 5 was not perfect. It needed more Astrid. It needed better pacing. It needed more answers about Etta. But the finale did deliver and while it did not do everything I wanted for the series, I think it probably did everything I needed, and I can’t really imagine it being any other way.
What were your thoughts on Season 5 of Fringe? Also, I’ll be doing a recap post of the entire series sometime in the next couple of weeks, so stay tuned, Fringies!
I am not reading the full review because I am behind on the series but I wanted to say LOVE ‘Fringe’ such a fun show!
It is such a fun show! I’d love to hear your thoughts once you finish! I found the finale very satisfying!
I had some problems with Fringe’s end (like, as you brought up, the lack of explanation of ZFT and some of the other larger mysteries), but I wasn’t bothered by a lot of the other elements of the season you mention, and in particular, I felt gutted by Etta’s death. I think you raise some excellent points about the problems, but at least in my case, after a few years of thinking Fringe would be canceled, I was so happy we had a fifth and final season that I was willing to let some gaps in logic slide. On another note, I completely agree that seeing Fauxlivia and Lincoln again was fantastic; that was definitely one of my favorite parts of the season.
I’m looking forward to your full thoughts on the series as a whole, and I’ve enjoyed reading your thoughts on your progress through it!
Yeah, from listening to the podcast I feel like a lot of people were much more side-swept by Etta’s death than I was, and while I was sad and didn’t necessarily predict it, I wasn’t shocked, and I guess I felt I didn’t really have the chance to know her all that well yet. I was sad for Peter and Olivia, but not sad for me like I had lost someone, you know? I’m not sure why that was the case for me, but it was, and I think my husband felt similarly.
I went into the season kind of knowing that Etta dies. I was just shocked it happened so quickly.
Nice review. I thought the season was pretty cool. The only thing that sucks about it is that it wasn’t longer. If it was longer, we probably would have gotten some of the answers you wanted about Etta. I also thought the Paradox at the end was a little confusing but at least it hit the emotional impact. Overall, it was good season. At least it was able to end on its own terms.
I don’t think they would had to have taken too long to explain some of what happened to Etta at least, but oh well. I definitely agree that I am glad the show got to end on its own terms!